Review: Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden (9781681198071)

Set in the 1880s, this novel explores the world if Essie, a young African-American woman who grew up with a neglectful mother and was rescued from poverty and prostitution by a kindly cleaning woman. Determined to keep learning even though she left school at an early age, Essie continued to read everything she could get her hands on. While working at a boarding house, Essie meets Dorcas Vashon, a wealthy African-American woman who sees potential in Essie and offers her a way to transform her life. Taught etiquette and new manners by Dorcas over several grueling months, Essie becomes Victoria and takes on the persona of Dorcas’ niece. As Victoria enters the social elite in Washington, D.C. she must hold to the lie that she is living until she can’t manage it any longer.

Bolden captures a period in American history that is rarely seen in books, much less teen novels. It is the period after Restoration gave African-Americans new rights but before the Jim Crow laws came stripped them away. It is a dazzling time to be a member of society and Bolden gives us details about the books, the manners and the dresses that make up that world. The setting of Washington, D. C. society is beautifully depicted as well.

Essie/Victoria makes for a wonderful set of eyes to view this world through. While she is taken with her new lifestyle and the opportunities it brings, Essie wrestles with the lies she must tell to keep it that way. Her strength of character is particularly evident when she is pressed such as learning etiquette and at the end of the book when she must make a moral decision. It is then that Essie fully steps into her own.

A fascinating look at a neglected piece of American history. Appropriate for ages 12-16.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.

2018 Best Teen Books!

This was a great year for books for teens, particularly those written by diverse authors about diverse characters. Here are the 20 books that I loved the most:

The Belles (The Belles #1) Blood Water Paint

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (9781484728499)

A mesmerizing first novel from an incredible new talent. – My Review

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough (9780735232112)

A necessary and vital call to action, this book shows that women have stood up all the way through history and their voices will not be ignored. – My Review

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1) Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (9781250170972)

What an amazing read this is! It is a world that no one has seen before, a world anchored by Black Lives Matter that will echo for fans of Black Panther. – My Review

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (9780525552963)

Come fall in love with Darius and Iran at the same time in this amazing debut novel. – My Review

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) Emergency Contact

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (9780062570604)

A wild and bloody book with a fierce protagonist who sears the page. – My Review

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi (9781534408968)

Beautifully written, awkward in the best way and entirely empowering and accepting, this novel is a warm hug for readers struggling with anxiety.  – My Review

Fresh Ink: An Anthology Girl Made of Stars

Fresh Ink edited by Lamar Giles (9781524766283)

Strong writing, great stories and a call to action will make this collection a popular one. – My Review

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (9781328778239)

Fierce and angry, this novel about sexual assault and the power of survivors. – My Review

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1) The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings, #2)

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (9781250147905)

A great read, this blend of fairy tale and horror is completely intoxicating. – My Review

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (9780062795328)

Lee has a wonderful wit and humor in her writing. She tells this new tale with the same dance of sarcasm, historical detail and charm as her first book. – My Review

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein The Place Between Breaths

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge (9781626725003)

This verse novel is pure wonderment. – My Review

The Place Between Breaths by An Na (9781481422253)

Masterfully written, this is a harrowing depiction of mental illness in a family. – My Review

The Poet X Rabbit & Robot

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (9780062662804)

One of the best verse novels I have ever read, this one deserves a standing ovation.  – My Review

Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith (9781534422209)

A deep book hidden in farts, horniness and space, this is one incredible teen novel. – My Review

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton (9780525580966)

Each of Dayton’s stories is an ethical question wrapped in a taut and fascinating plot in a shared world. – My Review

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (9781510727663)

A joy of an LGBT read that will give you all the feels. – My Review

Summer of Salt A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno (9780062493644)

This is one of those books that you fall for hard. It sweeps in with poetic language that invites readers to explore the island of By-the-Sea, breathe in the magic, taste beautifully-named ice cream flavors and linger in the autumnal graveyard for awhile. – My Review

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (9780062671158)

No matter whether they are fantasy or contemporary fiction, these stories are each tantalizing and rich. – My Review

A Very Large Expanse of Sea What If It's Us

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (9780062866561)

A fierce heroine faces racism alongside romance in this gripping novel for teens. – My Review

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (9780062795250)

A humorous, honest and heartfelt novel that offers a gorgeous look at the ups and downs of relationships through the eyes of a gay couple.  – My Review

2018 Best Poetry Books!

I didn’t manage to read a lot of poetry in 2018, unfortunately. The ones on my list of the Best of 2018 though are worth treasuring:

Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham and Charles Waters For Every One by Jason Reynolds

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (9781512404425)

In this book, there is a feeling of safety to explore difficult subjects that the poetry itself creates. – My Review

For Every One by Jason Reynolds (9781481486248)

It is a book about perseverance and resilience, a poem about life, hard knocks and getting up and continuing onward. – My Review

The Horse_s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera

The Horse’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows (9780763689162)

A stellar book of focused haiku. – My Review

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (9780763690526)

Rich, memorable and timely, this picture book is something special. – My Review

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright, illustrated by Nina Crews (9781512498622)

A dynamic look at one of the top African-American poets of the 21st century, this book of poetry is a celebration. – My Review

Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (9781250144546)

Set in 1889 Paris, this teen novel mixes historical fiction with fantasy into one incredible adventure. Severin was denied his inheritance by the Order, a group of wealthy and powerful Houses that control the French Babel fragment and therefore the power to forge amazing devices. So Severin has become a thief who hides in plain sight in his hotel with his group of fellow thieves and friends around him. Each of his friends has their own distinct skill set that is invaluable when rescuing magical artifacts. Their expertise ranges from explosives to poisons to spiders to desire. As they start to seek out their largest target ever, it is an opportunity for Severin to regain his inheritance but it may just kill them all in the process.

Chokshi has written several amazing books and this one builds on her previous success. The setting here is particularly lush. Lovingly depicted, Paris comes to life just as the Eiffel Tower is being built for the Exposition Universelle. Paris is a great setting for the equally vibrant adventures the characters have there with traps, break ins, magical elements and more adding to the drama. That mixture of fantasy and history is forged together tightly into a unified whole.

This is a complex teen novel filled with engaging characters who all are distinct from one another and enticing to spend time with. She has included all sorts of diversity in her characters, including neurodiversity, bisexuality, and racial diversity. Each of these characteristics is a part of the story and plays into the plot, so they are far more than token notes and instead are rooted deeply in the characters.

A breathtaking adventure in a fantasy world, this first in a series will be appreciated by fans of Leigh Bardugo. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Wednesday Books.

 

2018 Best Graphic Novels!

It was a great year for graphic novels, particularly for those showing diversity in authors and content. Here are my picks for the best of 2018:

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol Brazen by Penelope Bagieu

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol (9781626724457)

Brosgol is such a gifted book creator, moving skillfully from picture book to graphic novel. – My Review

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu (9781626728691)

The book is a delight to read, each chapter focused on one woman and told briefly and yet in a way that honors them and makes readers want to learn even more about them. – My Review

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell Deadendia The Watcher's Test by Hamish Steele

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (9781524719371)

There is a real spark here that demands creative thinking by the reader, looks beyond the cardboard and tape and sees the magic of imagination happening. – My Review

Deadendia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele (9781910620472)

Steele has created one of the zaniest, twistiest and most demonic graphic novels around. – My Review

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner Grace for Gus by Harry Bliss

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner (9781481495561)

A great pick for fans and haters alike, this one would make a great graphic novel to book talk to middle-schoolers and teens. – My Review

Grace for Gus by Harry Bliss (9780062644107)

An empowering read that makes the quiet child the hero and the star. – My Review

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka Illegal by Eoin Colfer

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (9780545902472)

Personal, painful and profound, this graphic novel is honest and deep. – My Review

Illegal by Eoin Colfer (9781492662143)

Smartly written, deftly drawn and plotted to perfection, this graphic novel is a powerhouse. – My Review

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden Peter & Ernesto by Graham Annable

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (9781250178138)

An impressive graphic novel both for its content and its art. This one is unique and incredibly beautiful. – My Review

Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable (9781626725614)

A great early graphic novel for elementary-aged readers. – My Review

Photographic by Isabel Quintero The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Pena (9781947440005)

One of the best biographical graphic novels I have read, this one is a stunning look at an impressive woman. – My Review

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (9781626723634)

Beautiful, layered and modern, this graphic novel embraces gender identity and gorgeous dresses. – My Review

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks Speak The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks (9781368008440)

The story is fast paced and a delightful mix of STEM and girl power. – My Review

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, artwork by Emily Carroll (9780374300289)

It’s a groundbreaking novel made into one of the most powerful graphic novels I have read. – My Review

The Unwanted Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (9781328810151)

A strong and important look at the Syrian refugee crisis in a format that makes the content very readable. – My Review

Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan (9780316561365)

In a world where the upper classes are part human and part animal, the Paper Caste or fully human people are the most oppressed. Every year eight girls from that Paper Caste are chosen to become the king’s consorts. This year though, there are nine girls, after Lei is seized from her family and brought to the royal court. At the court, Lei is forced to train to be pleasing for the king. Meanwhile she is desperately looking for information about her mother who was taken by force several years earlier. But things are about to get even more difficult for Lei as she refuses the King’s advances and then falls in love. But what can one young woman do in a world that is stacked against her? She can find the fire of revenge.

In her debut novel for teens, Ngan has created a swirling world of scents, colors and textiles. It is a world of incredible beauty with an Asian flair that is intoxicating and quickly immerses the reader deeply inside. From the bathing tubs with their steam to the opulence of the court, this setting demonstrates that there is beauty that contains endless dangers. Ngan does not shy away from the brutality of the life of a Paper Girl, creating a book that is both mesmerizing and violent. People triggered by rape and domestic violence should be cautioned.

Lei is a heroine who transforms right before the readers’ eyes into something much stronger and much more dangerous. She is a young woman stolen from her family filled with hope about her mother’s fate. She becomes more hardened in some ways and yet at the same time falls in love with another of the Paper Girls and becomes softer and more open. It is a powerful convergence for her, creating a woman willing to risk everything for those she loves.

The first in a series, this fantasy novel is a mix of LGBTQ, romance and vengeance that is entirely tantalizing. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Jimmy Patterson Books.

 

2018 Best Youth Nonfiction!

What a year for nonfiction! It was filled with looks at math, science, art, music and much more. Here are my picks for the best nonfiction for children and teens in 2018:

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome Carlos Santana Sound of the Heart, Song of the World by Gary Golio

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James R. Ransome (9780823420476)

An important and lovely book about Harriet Tubman that belongs in all libraries. – My Review

Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World by Gary Golio (9781627795128)

A great pick for libraries looking for quality biographies of musicians. – My Review

Countdown 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade Do Not Lick This Book by Idan Ben-Barak

Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez (9781682630136)

A glorious look at the Apollo missions. This belongs in every library. – My Review

Do Not Lick This Book by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost (9781250175366)

A smart choice for libraries looking for great STEM reads. – My Review

Drawn from Nature by Helen Ahpornsiri Life Inside My Mind

Drawn from Nature by Helen Ahpornsiri (9780763698980)

Throughout there is a grace of line and delight. An organic look at nature in all of its beauty. – My Review

Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles edited by Jessica Burkhart (9781481494649)

Reading this book is an exercise in opening your heart. It belongs in every public library serving teens. It will save lives. Period. – My Review

Lovely Beasts by Kate Gardner Nothing Stopped Sophie The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth by Kate Gardner, illustrated by Heidi Smith (9780062741615)

A beautiful and fresh look at some of the most misunderstood animals in the world.  – My Review

Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock (9780316278201)

The book shows again and again the resilience and determination that it took for Sophie to succeed. – My Review

One Day a Dot by Ian Lendler Otis and Will Discover the Deep by Barb Rosenstock

One Day a Dot by Ian Lendler, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb (9781626722446)

A great look at the science of the Big Bang and evolution for small children, this is a cleverly designed book. – My Review

Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record Setting Dive of the Bathysphere by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Katherine Roy (9780316393829)

A winner of a science read. – My Review

Pass Go and Collect 200 by Tanya Lee Stone So Tall Within Sojourner Truth's Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt

Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Steven Salerno (9781627791687)

A very intriguing tale that is a mix of women’s rights, ingenuity and economics. – My Review

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Daniel Minter (9781626728721)

This book aches with pain, loss, and grief. – My Review

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw_ms Gyetxw Water Land Land and Water Forms around the World by Christy Hale

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett David Huson), illustrated by Natasha Donovan (9781553791395)

The book is deep and lovely, the tone unique and lush. – My Review

Water Land: Land and Water Forms around the World by Christy Hale (9781250152442)

A brilliant book that will have young readers looking at water and land in a new way with plenty of terms to name what they are seeing. – My Review

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson (9780525580423)

A call to action for young people, this book is an anthology that belongs in every library in our country. – My Review

Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (9780062795250)

When Arthur and Ben meet for the first time, it’s perfect. However, neither of them get each other’s numbers. With Arthur in New York City for just the summer, they have a limited time find one another again in a huge city. Thanks to some expert sleuthing online by friends, a flyer in a specific coffee shop, and the universe helping them out, they manage to meet once more. But what if it’s not actually meant to be? Arthur has never had a boyfriend before, and Ben has just broken up with his first serious boyfriend. Arthur tries a little too hard, and Ben doesn’t quite try hard enough particularly when it comes to being on time. Could it be that they just aren’t mean to be together after all?

The pairing of these two master authors is beautifully done. There is no clear line where one author’s voice begins and the other ends, instead the voices of the two characters meld and create a cohesive experience. The humor in particular is skillfully done with both Arthur and Ben having distinct personalities, voices and senses of humor. New York City itself is a backdrop to their summer together and becomes almost a character of her own. From subway rides to tourist traps to Broadway shows to coffee shops, the city shows her own magic throughout the book.

The entire novel reads like a movie with scenes playing out visually and the dialogue snappy and quick. The book has strong secondary characters as well who are vibrant and entirely their own people. In particular, the two sets of parents are well drawn and it’s great to see everyone supporting their gay kids. Additionally, the depiction of gay sex focuses on consent, pleasure and is entirely positive.

A humorous, honest and heartfelt novel that offers a gorgeous look at the ups and downs of relationships through the eyes of a gay couple. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from ARC provided by HarperTeen.

YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalists

YALSA has announced their finalists for their 2019 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. The award is for the best nonfiction book published for ages 12-18 during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year.  Here are the finalists: 

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor

Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler Hey, Kiddo

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown